Forever will it dominate your destiny…
Once you start down the dark path…
Becoming a manager for the first time is exciting — probably one of the most exciting moments of your career. For me, this happened 7 years ago (I remember because it coincided with my first son being born). I was happy, nervous, and scared. The sun seemed brighter. My shoes seemed to have springs. It was thrilling because now I could…um…now I could…uh…
Why do you want to be a manager?
Every few months, there’s an article on Slashdot about an engineer who’s just been promoted to manager and is asking advice on how to play this new role. People usually say things like “learn how to manage projects” or “stay out of the developers’ way” or “make sure your hair doesn’t get too pointy” (i.e., don’t confuse what you do with who you are). I think this advice is fine, but the best thing to do is to reflect on why you want this. Why do people want to be managers? Sometimes it is for the power. You have the power to affect people. You can tell your staff what to do, when it should be done, how it should be done. You can judge people, in fact, you are expected to judge people. Sometimes it is about the money (though if money is what you want, you should really go into Sales). Sometimes it is just about the next step in your career. I’m not sure I had a clear reason — I suppose it was a little of all of these things. Mostly I just wanted to try something new.
Why should you want to be a manager?
You’ll have some selfish reasons for wanting to manage and that’s fine, but you should have some more altruistic ones too. Early on, my “non-selfish” goal was to make my team the best in the company. I feel I achieved this and people across the company told me so. However, I eventually came to realize this was really just another selfish goal. I was essentially viewing my team as an extension of myself and was trying to outperform everyone else. While we had great internal cohesion and high morale, we were viewed as arrogant and unapproachable — and people across the company told me so 🙂
The degree to which my approach had not been the right one crystallized for me when I read Peter Drucker’s article on being an effective executive. Your primary goal as a manager, he argues, shouldn’t be about yourself or your team or your boss or the board or even the shareholders; it should always be about “What is right for the enterprise“. To me this means promoting the long-term health and success of the organization. It means doing your part to ensure that the organization stays true to its purpose and its greater goal. Ultimately the success of the enterprise should, in some way, large or small, improve the world.
What’s right for the enterprise. You should want to be a manager because you think you have the skills and the vision to contribute to this long-term process. And this phrase should be your management mantra.
And, hey, it even feels better. After all, there’s no dark side in Star Trek 🙂